• Monday, July 15, 2024
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BusinessDay

Too many mobile applications chasing tiny phone spaces

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Nearly every business today embarking on innovation see mobile applications as an important channel to communicate directly with customers. However, the African smartphone market is littered with devices using very low storage leaving users with very few downloadable options.

The world of mobile applications has certainly grown from 2008 when the iOS store had just 500 applications in its first iteration to now housing 1.8 million apps as of third quarter of 2019, data from Statista has shown. As the leader of the app stores, Android is home to 2.47 million apps while Microsoft has 669,000 apps.

According to App Annie, the total number of apps downloaded in 2018 was at 194 billion, up from 178 billion in 2017.

Also in 2018, global mobile app revenues amounted to over $365 billion. In 2023, mobile apps are projected to generate more than $935 billion in revenues via paid downloads and in-app advertising.

For most African countries, Android is the dominant OS so when an African app developer loads up his or her mobile app, it’s going it into an online supermarket that has over 2 million products. Of these, apps in the Play Store, 60 percent are never downloaded. Also, less than 20 percent of the 40 percent downloaded are ever put to good use.

Findings reveal that South Africa (SA) ranks first in Africa in terms of app usage, with a third of its population using mobile applications, followed by 31 percent in Ghana, 28 percent in Nigeria, 19 percent in Kenya and 18 percent in Uganda.

Beyond difficult interfaces and poor fits to local solutions, the majority of people in Nigeria and Africa, in general, are not downloading mobile apps so much because there is simply not enough space in their phones to do so.

First, with millions of people living below the poverty line, Africa is a big market for feature phones and cheap smartphones. That is how come Transsion through its brands such as Techno, Infinix, and Itel, is able to capture the biggest share of mobile phone market on the continent from Samsung which sells relatively expensive phones, in 2017. Unlike Samsung, Transsion’s primary strategy is the sale of cheap phones. And the cheaper the phone is the lesser the size of storage on the phone.

Nearly all smartphones come with preloaded mobile apps. Sometimes all the space a user has left could only take 5 more apps. Social media which are arguably the most popular mobile apps often are not preloaded hence they are the first to be downloaded.

The era of Super Apps

New startups in Nigeria such as Opera’s OPay and PalmPay a payment platform from Transsion, are finding a way around poor storage space by building Super Apps.

Super apps refer to many apps within an umbrella app. It’s an OS that unbundles the tyranny of apps. It’s a contrast from the ‘single-purpose apps’ made popular by Silicon Valley. Single-purpose apps focus on tackling one consumer problem and have a clear, easy to use interface.

Like the OPay app, super apps often operate at the intersection of logistics/hyper-local delivery, commerce, payments and social.

The OPay app, for instance, is home to services such as OPay (the payment platform), ORide (ride-hailing and logistics); OFood (food service); OTrike (tricycle service); OBus (bus-hailing service); and OCar (ride-hailing).

Chinese heritage

Chinese startups laid the foundation of Super Apps as it helps smaller businesses reduce the cost of building and managing a separate app. Super Apps also helps smaller startups to ride on the popularity of established brands to gain visibility.

According to one expert, super apps are considered attractive for Chinese startups because users are accustomed to seeing a busier interface and appreciate the ‘one-stop-shop’.

AliPay of Ant Financials and a subsidiary of the Alibaba group is one of the biggest Super Apps in China. The AliPay platform houses different apps in sections such as Fund Transfer and Third-party Services. The app allows users to use city service, pay utilities, buy movie tickets, book a room via Airbnb and do a lot more stuff.

In other words, a financial app owned by a Nigeria bank or a prominent fintech startup can take a lot more third party applications which also increases activities on the app. The model is already growing in many Asia countries and is likely the model Chinese startups in Nigeria are going to use to dominate the market.

It’s beyond Super Apps

But experts also say the size of mobile apps poses a bigger problem for many users. Interestingly, OPay has a downloadable size of 23.56 MB which is smaller than most standalone fintech apps.

Due to size, users are exchanging mobile apps of financial services for USSD technology just to save more space for their pictures. Outside social media, bank mobile apps are the next important downloads for users.

“We went through this with GTBank in 2014. People were not downloading their app,” said Victor Asemota, African Partner of Alta Global Ventures. “They wanted smaller sized apps and we were creating them with Bi.Nu.”

All in all, users will be very loyal to an app that is easy to use, friction-free, functional, provides good services and allows for a multifaceted experience. If that fits the description of a Super App, the bigger the better.